Manafort indicted on 12 counts, surrenders to FBI

The Hill

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is being charged with 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, in the first indictment to come from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

The 12-count indictment includes Manafort’s former business partner and protégé Rick Gates, who was ousted from the pro-Trump group America First Policies in April.

Manafort turned himself in at the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office on Monday morning.   

The charges are related to work done by Manafort and Gates on behalf of a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine. Mueller alleges they were paid tens of millions of dollars for the work and then laundered the money “in order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities.”

The sprawling 31-page indictment, unsealed on Monday morning, makes no mention of Manafort’s work for President Trump’s campaign, which began in March of 2016 and ended with his ouster in August.

Separately, however, prosecutors announced that former Trump campaign aide George Papaopolous, 30, had pleaded guilty last month to lying to investigators about conversations he had with a foreign professor who told him he had thousands of emails containing “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

He also allegedly lied about his contact with a Russian woman who the Justice Department says he worked with “in an effort to arrange a meeting between the campaign and Russian government officials.”

Papadopolous allegedly emailed a Russian with connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, forwarding information from the correspondences to a top campaign official not identified in the documents. On numerous occasions, he tried to negotiate a meeting with either Trump or campaign officials and “members of President Putin’s office” as well as the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials said. Those meetings never occurred.

It is unclear whether Papadopolous is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. The announcement of his plea was released an hour or so after new broke about Manafort and Gates.

Mueller has the authority not only to investigate any potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow, but also any auxiliary matters arising from the primary probe — in this case, Manafort’s financial dealings.

According to the indictment released Monday, Manafort and Gates, “together with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury” — a common charge in tax cases.

The two have been charged with laundering tens of millions of dollars “through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts,” according to the indictment.

More than $75 million flowed through various offshore accounts set up by Manafort — and he laundered more than $18 million, prosecutors allege. Gates transferred more than $3 million from offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled, according to the indictment.

In addition to the conspiracy and money laundering charges, Manafort and Gates also allegedly ran afoul of laws requiring individuals lobbying on behalf of a foreign principal to register with the U.S. government.

The two face charges for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, misleading the government about the nature of their foreign lobbying efforts and making false statements — as well as seven counts of failure to file the appropriate government documents for foreign financial accounts.

Beginning in 2006, according to the indictment, Manafort began to do work for the Party of Regions, a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. In 2010, its candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, was elected president. He was later forced to flee to Russia in 2014 in the wake of popular protests, effectively ending Manafort’s work.

During that period, Manafort and Gates allegedly created more than a dozen foreign financial entities in Cyprus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Seychelles, according to Mueller’s indictment.

But in his tax filings from 2008 to 2014, Manafort reported that he did not have authority over any foreign bank accounts, according to the indictment. He allegedly used his offshore accounts to purchase real estate in the U.S. on which he took out mortgages, thereby gaining tax-free cash in the United States.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a “lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income,” spending millions on luxury goods and services through payments wired from his offshore accounts.

Questioned about these activities by federal investigators in 2016, Mueller claims, Manafort and Gates “responded with a series of false and misleading statements.”

During the same time period, Manafort and Gates also engaged in a “multi-million dollar lobbying campaign” in the United States “at the direction of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions and the government of Ukraine” without providing the appropriate disclosures to the federal government, prosecutors allege.

They solicited two unnamed Washington, D.C., firms to lobby members of Congress about Ukraine sanctions and the validity of the elections, among other things, providing the firms “a false and misleading cover story that would distance themselves and the government of Ukraine” from the two companies.

Manafort for months has been suspected to be one of the most high-profile targets of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election. In July, the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid of a home that Manafort owns in Alexandria, Va.

Some legal experts have suggested that Mueller’s decision to move forward with an indictment of Manafort is a signal that he is trying to “flip” him — or convince him to act as an informant, potentially about the Trump campaign.

“This is consistent with an early indictment to get Manafort to flip,” tweeted Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who is running for Illinois attorney general as a Democrat.

“Indictment makes clear that Mueller is seeking *a ton* of forfeiture–I imagine that gives him some serious leverage over Manafort,” tweeted Carissa B Hessick, a criminal law professor at the University of North Carolina.

Or, others say, Mueller may also simply believe that he has sufficient evidence against Manafort to prove charges in court — or both.

The indictment also raised questions about how the president will respond.

Trump has repeatedly characterized Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” crafted by his political enemies, and speculation has roiled Washington that he could try to either fire Mueller or pardon anyone the special counsel indicts.

He drew scrutiny earlier in the year for his controversial pardon of Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio — and has reportedly explored with aides the breadth of his authority to immunize individuals from legal peril.


2 thoughts on “Manafort indicted on 12 counts, surrenders to FBI

  1. “… including conspiracy against the United States…”


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